​Football is broken – that much isn't news. A sport whose showpiece event is heading to a country using indentured slaves, whose stadiums are being built with the bodies of migrant workers exposed to obscene working environments, because of a vote that was rigged in the first place. A sport whose governing bodies dish out the lightest of slaps on the wrist, if anything at all, when allegations of racism are raised. 


Anyone who's paid the slightest bit of attention in the last...well, ever, knows that football is broken. But the reason we stay, the reason we keep coming back, and funnelling millions of pounds into the game every day, is because that daft, wonderful game that we played in the playground as kids – jumpers for goalposts and all that – has always felt retrievable. Just about within grasp, up on the high shelf that politics and business put it on. 

On Court Uyghur Dreams Grow

Maybe it's a hope born of naivety, maybe it's a wilful self-imposed blindness in order to preserve the enjoyment, but football has always felt fixable. Policies can be put in place, corrupt officials can be removed, real, actionable bans can be instituted. 


​Juventus' mini statement on Twitter on Thursday night felt like we crossed a point of no return.


"​Cristiano Ronaldo has shown in recent months his great professionalism and dedication, which is appreciated by everyone at Juventus. The events allegedly dating back to almost 10 years ago do not change this opinion, which is shared by anyone who has come into contact with this great champion."

48 words, each more cowardly than the last, shouting for the world to hear – we don't care what Cristiano Ronaldo is accused of, because he is brilliant at football and playing for our club.


It shouldn't need saying but, apparently, it does: a person's work, achievements and sporting talent have absolutely nothing to do with whether they have the capacity to commit a crime, nor whether they should be punished and condemned if they are found to have done so.


Juve didn't have to put out this statement. Nobody would've blamed them if they'd put out the same cautious, heavily lawyered press release that almost every other sporting organisation in the world would've. 'We're aware of the situation, we're monitoring it, we will let the legal system do its job while considering our options privately and internally.' Done. 


For balance, some other high-profile Ronaldo-associated organisations released their own comments on Thursday afternoon. ​Nike, for example, said: “We are deeply concerned by the disturbing allegations and will continue to closely monitor the situation.”

EA Sports: “We have seen the concerning report that details allegations against Cristiano Ronaldo. We are closely monitoring the situation, as we expect cover athletes and ambassadors to conduct themselves in a manner that is consistent with EA's values.”


The responsible thing to do in a situation as serious as this is to treat it with the appropriate gravity, not to act like a picture's come up of someone smoking a joint at a party 15 years ago – something to move past and treat as a historic issue to be dismissed out of hand.


Meanwhile, fanbases have exploded. Thousands of Ronaldo fanboys have spewed ugly bile and vitriol at anyone daring to report on this impugning of their idol, fans of Lionel Messi have reacted with a sickening glee at the opportunity to point-score, as if this were a minor skirmish in a pathetic ongoing popularity battle. Neutrals have dived into mini-spats of their own. It's ugly beyond belief. 


Whatever the facts of this case, however the civil case is settled, whatever the Las Vegas police find in their investigation, how is it possible to expect people to come forward with any future claims against big-name footballers? 

At the time of writing, the tweets are still up on Juventus' official English language Twitter feed. They're followed, with laughably hollow sincerity, by a retweet promoting the club's women's team and a video of Ronaldo himself scoring and celebrating a goal in training. Because he's a dedicated athlete, you see, and that's what matters to them. Not the betrayal felt by such a large portion of their fanbase. Not the signal they're sending out, not the barely veiled subtext. Cristiano Ronaldo's athleticism, and having it on their football team. 


It's ugly. It's cowardly. It's the new normal.